Rational Faith for Irrational Hopes: Praying Bigger Prayers During Times of Crisis
This time of quarantine has brought many of us to a different place of prayer. Whether it's praying more due to an increase of free time, praying less due to a disruption of routine, or praying with greater fervency given desperation and uncertainty, many of us have experienced a shift in our prayer lives. I think this time is as good as any to reflect on the content of our prayers and push our faith to be as bold as our hope.
Recently, I've been trying to get an idea of how often I pray crazy prayers. By crazy prayers, I mean things I would love to see happen but are completely outside the realm of immediate plausibility. In quantifying these, I realized that I pray crazy prayers all the time, but I'm fully surprised every single time they actually come to pass. And why is that? It comes from a place of knowing that my hopes can become reality but giving too much thought to what is reasonable and likely.
Crazy times call for crazy prayers. A lot of us right now find ourselves interceding for the lives of sick loved ones, many of us are praying to keep a roof over our heads, and others are in need of direction for the increasingly uncertain future. We hope that God will send miraculous healing and provision and we ask for it daily but are we asking for it daily because we don't have faith enough to believe that asking once is enough? Is it persistence that drives us repeatedly to the throne of grace, or is it doubt?
Something that is beautifully freeing about the human imagination is that it is not subject to the limits of rationality. We have the freedom to hope for anything we would like to see, experience, try, prevent, receive, or create. As we mature and learn, however, we sometimes begin to discredit our hopes because we have more reliance on our knowledge of reason than on our knowledge of faith.
If our hopes are not subject to the bounds of rationality, then neither is our faith. What is rational in terms of what we can explain through observances, natural senses, facts, and reason is not the scale by which we should evaluate our faith. If "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1), then we need to consider it in terms of what is extrarational. Extrarational is rhetoric that transcends beyond what is explainable and invites its audience to participate in its experience (Selby 2016). In simpler terms, faith... is crazy.
During the second week after campus closed, my friend Heavin sent me a sermon called "Fading Faith/Crazy Faith" by Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church. In December of last year, Mike Todd preached about prayers that are only crazy until they come to pass. At the end of the sermon, he announced the church's gift of hundreds of thousands of dollars to churches and charities they've been affiliated with for years, and he gave thousands more to individual members to help with prayer requests they had made months and even years before.
This made me think about what God probably thinks of my usual prayers. I can imagine God thinking, "Has this woman not seen me do far greater than this? Is this the best she can come up with, knowing who I am?" I realized I had minimized my faith by praying rational prayers to an extrarational God.
The time is always right to get irrational with our faith. We can pray for the full eradication of this virus. We can pray for economic stability, better yet, abundance. We can pray that every graduating senior receives a six-figure salary within ten years of graduation - and that they are generous servants with their money. And we can believe that all of this will happen. The how of all this might not be known to us right now, but that can also be revealed if we ask for it.
So, what is your crazy hope? I dare you to pray for it, to say it out loud to God. I dare you to let the size of your request match or even exceed the size of your faith. Don't worry if its feasibility may not be explainable because the God we pray to is not explainable. Let your hope have the freedom to be irrational, knowing that your faith puts it in the hands of the God of the extrarational.
Selby, Gary. Not with wisdom of words: Nonrational persuasion in the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2016.
|Olivia Robinson is a Pepperdine senior majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications and Rhetoric and Leadership. She currently serves as Co-President of the Black Student Association, and in 2019 she spoke at the inaugural TEDx Pepperdine.|